What Is an Issue Tracking System? Definition and Features

An issue tracking system is an important tool for structured issue tracking. In this article, you will learn what makes it special and what functions it should offer. We will also give you an overview of the different use cases and tips for making the right software choice.
Issue Tracking

What are “issues”?

Issues are challenges, difficulties or tasks that can arise in various contexts. They include discrepancies, errors or requirements that need to be resolved.

Issues can be of many different types. The categories range from technical defects and general optimization suggestions to inquiries from customers and requests from suppliers and employees.

Issues can occur in many areas. Examples include problems with hardware and software in IT. In project management, delays in project progress and customer service complaints in particular require a response or further action.

Definition: Issue Tracking System

An issue tracking system – often referred to as an issue tracking tool or ticket system – records and processes issue-related tasks in a structured way.

By categorizing and prioritizing issues, they can be assigned to the responsible person or team and processed according to their type and urgency. Each issue is assigned a unique status during processing, which defines its current state.

The basis for centralized recording and processing is usually a ticket system. Issues are processed in a ticket (trouble ticket) with a unique identification number. Processing in a ticket makes it possible for different stakeholders to work on solving the problem. Communication, processing history and all relevant information about the issue, such as technical and customer details, are listed and traceable in the ticket.

Key features of an issue tracking system

The most important features of an issue tracking system, which enable efficient and secure work regardless of the area of application, are described below:

OTRS Agent Dashboard – Ticket Priorisierung und Kategorisierung
OTRS dashboard with individual list view for tickets

Learn how OTRS can support you and your team with issue tracking.

Basic components of issue tracking software

A ticket system is the central component of an issue tracking system. It records a problem or request. It also captures the internal and external communication centrally and clearly. The clear assignment of all information prevents information and communication breaks.

The CMDB (Configuration Management Database) in an issue tracking system is used to manage and document configuration items, such as computers or equipment, along their lifecycle. This enables effective linking and tracking of issues.

An intuitive user interface makes it easy to report and manage issues. It ensures that the necessary information is available for further processing. This can include the type and severity of the issue and the agent responsible.

The integration of a chatbot makes it possible to quickly obtain important information through targeted queries, allowing problems and incidents to be dealt with more efficiently.

When it comes to software development, the connection to GitHub is a major advantage. The support team and developers can work better together and do not have to work on two different systems.

Best practices when using issue tracking systems

Create the conditions for efficient communication within the team. Issue tracking software that allows all agents involved to exchange information quickly, both internally and with the customer, saves time and creates synergies.

Ensure that the status and work steps are recorded. Appropriate reports make it possible to react to problem solving challenges or bottlenecks at an early stage.

Define service levels and escalation times to meet the requirements of service recipients, make the best possible use of time resources and avoid overburdening your team.

Advantages of using issue tracking software

When do you need an issue tracking system?

Several different organizations benefit from issue tracking systems, but each does so in slightly different ways.

Customer support

Customer satisfaction is an important factor in retaining long-term customers. Problems must therefore be quickly identified and resolved by the customer service team: An issue tracker enables this. Plus, frequently occurring problems can also be identified, helping to prevent recurring problems for the customer.

Software development

In software development, issue tracking is often also used as bug tracking software. The primary task is to document and categorize bugs so that they can be prioritized and handled quickly by development teams

Product development

Product development teams use it to record problems. This helps to ensure product safety on the one hand and to continuously improve product quality on the other.

Project management

Issues can get in the way of projects keeping to their timelines and budgets. It’s important to keep track of these so that they can be processed according to their severity and the impact on the project process.

Choosing an issue tracking system

The selection of an issue tracking system - or issue tracking software - is defined by the requirements of the team. For example, software must fulfill different requirements in IT support than in customer support.

Scalability and customizability

The system should be scalable, easily expandable with functions or features to meet changing business needs. It should also be adaptable to the individual requirements of the specific team.

Integration with other tools

External tools should be able to be integrated into the system to avoid switching between different systems and make information from different sources available in one place.

On-premise vs. cloud-based systems

It should be up to the customer to decide which system landscape they prefer. Certain usage scenarios require an on-premise solution, while other scenarios benefit from the flexibility of a cloud-based solution.

Open source vs. proprietary solutions

Costs and independence from the provider are often the drivers behind the decision to opt for an open source solution. Requirements in terms of customer support, service quality, compatibility and legal requirements, on the other hand, speak in favor of a proprietary solution.


Future development of issue tracking systems

Artificial intelligence (AI)

AI is also playing an increasingly important role in issue tracking and resolution. AI-supported functions, such as the automated assignment and prioritization of tickets, the integration of chatbots for customer communication and analysis tools for predicting problems, are just a few examples of current and future developments.

Challenges and possible solutions for the future

Current and future challenges include ensuring data protection and security. However, data overload, the integration of heterogeneous tools, AI-supported analyses for efficient data processing and standardized API interfaces must also be taken into account – and overcome – in future planning

Learn how OTRS can support you and your team with issue tracking.